A small town in southern Mexico buried three of its own Tuesday, two days after a clash between police and protesters left eight dead.
Residents in the town of Nochixtlán in Oaxaca state accused police of opening fire during a confrontation involving protesters and striking radical teachers, killing several people including 19-year-old Jesús Cadena Sánchez.
A middle child, Cadena Sánchez was the second of three burials, as hundreds marched with his casket to a rocky hilltop cemetery under a steady rain.
After his burial, Cadena Sánchez’s mother, Patricia Sánchez Meza, recalled her last conversation with him in what must have been minutes before a bullet ripped through his lower abdomen on Sunday.
Federal and state police had moved in to remove a highway roadblock on the outskirts of Nochixtlán on Sunday. By late morning shots rang out. Though who started shooting is disputed, journalists filmed police firing their weapons. Eight were killed and more than 100 injured.
Sánchez Meza had gone out on an errand Sunday morning and was surprised to find her son gone when she returned. She called for him thinking maybe he was asleep. They had the habit of always eating breakfast together.
Then she thought maybe he had walked the couple blocks to the church, because the bells had rung calling people to help. She gathered some supplies to help the injured and walked toward the action. She turned back a block from the hospital because there was shooting.
Eventually, around 11:20 a.m., Sánchez Meza was able to speak briefly with Cadena Sánchez by phone. She heard a lot of noise. He told her they had them pinned behind a bus.
“He told me, “I’m all right, mommy, relax, I’ll be right back.”
Then the call cut off.
Photos Cadena Sánchez took with his cellphone before his death showed a chaotic scene under a blue sky. Dozens of protesters, some with handkerchiefs tied around their faces were spread across the roadway. One man held a softball-size rock. In the distance a line of what appear to be blue-uniformed federal police stretch across the road. A helicopter circled overhead.
Other men who were with Cadena Sánchez at the end told Sánchez Meza that federal police fired on them. One of those who tried to help him was shot in the mouth and killed. Another was grazed.
Cadena Sánchez had not told his mother he was going to support the teachers’ roadblock that morning, but it did not surprise her.
“He was very supportive, he didn’t like injustices,” she said.
Cadena Sánchez had graduated high school one year before. Sánchez Meza proudly flipped through photos of him in an album. He with a friend in their school uniforms. The soccer and music lover wanted to continue his studies and become a civil engineer, Sánchez Meza said.
The crowd at Cadena Sánchez’s funeral was defiant. They blamed authorities and chanted that his death be avenged.
The first step forward could come Wednesday when the Mexican government and representatives of the dissident teachers’ union will hold talks.
The meeting was to be held in Mexico City and will be led by Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong.
The Interior Secretariat said in a statement that the talks will seek to find solutions that allow for a return to peace in regions that have seen turbulent protests recently.
Radical teachers unions are vehemently opposed to education reforms that include subjecting teachers to evaluations, and have led demonstrations in several states and the Mexican capital.
Officials said the reform itself will not be up for negotiation in Wednesday’s talks.
The most recent round of protests was set off by the arrest of some union leaders on charges including corruption.